Thunderhawk (Dorney Park) Article

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Thunderhawk's lift hill and station
Previously known as "The Coaster"
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Coordinates 40°34′47″N 75°32′08″W / 40.5798°N 75.5355°W / 40.5798; -75.5355
THUNDERHAWK (DORNEY PARK) Latitude and Longitude:

40°34′47″N 75°32′08″W / 40.5798°N 75.5355°W / 40.5798; -75.5355
Opening dateMay 18, 1923 (1923-05-18)
General statistics
Type Wood
Manufacturer Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters
Designer Herbert Paul Schmeck
Track layout Out and Back / Twister
Lift/launch systemChain lift hill
Height80 ft (24 m)
Drop65 ft (20 m)
Length2,767 ft (843 m)
Speed45 mph (72 km/h)
Max vertical angle45°
Height restriction48 in (122 cm)
Trains2 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Fast Lane available
Thunderhawk at RCDB
Pictures of Thunderhawk at RCDB

Thunderhawk (formerly known as The Coaster) is a wooden out and back roller coaster located at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The coaster was built in 1923 and is one of the oldest operating roller coasters in the northeast.


Thunderhawk was designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. When Thunderhawk opened in 1924 and for many years after the ride was known simply as the Coaster. The Coaster was renamed Thunderhawk with the addition of the Hercules roller coaster to the park in 1989.

Originally, the Coaster was built as an out-and-back coaster, meaning it went straight out from the first drop, turned around and came straight back. The ride was reconfigured in 1930 to its present design with a figure-eight twister section in the middle of the ride. Over the years, the ride has seen many cosmetic changes. At one point the ride featured a bright yellow paint job, which has since been painted over with an off-white color.

The original station pavilion featured a separate bumper car ride, around which wrapped the line for the Coaster, providing some entertainment to those waiting in line. Originally, the ride began with a tunneled section, and ended with another tunneled section, as the train went under the portion of the pavilion devoted to the bumper cars. However, the bumper cars were removed following Cedar Fair's purchase of the park in 1993, leaving the tunnel that began the ride as an open concrete trench. In addition, a set of brakes was placed in the middle of the return bunny hills causing the train to slow down and lose much of its trademark airtime.

The Thunderhawk structure was maintained by carpenter Paul Hottenstein, nicknamed "Shorty" from 1961 until his sudden death in the winter of 2001. A plaque in the ride's station honors him and his work on the ride.

Thunderhawk continues to be one of the park's most popular and beloved rides. To this day, it remains a classic example of an early American wooden roller coaster.

2016 Renovations

For 2016, Dorney Park has announced major renovations to Thunderhawk. Among the changes are new trains designed by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, [1] featuring an open-air design, with individual ratcheting lap bars (as opposed to the previous "buzz bars"). [2] The ride will also receive a new white coat of paint, reminiscent of the coaster's original color. [2] A new white lighting package will outline the entire ride. [2]


  • On July 21, 1990, two cars on Thunderhawk collided at the bottom of the lift hill. 17 people were taken to local hospitals to receive treatment for minor injuries. It is unknown what caused the accident, as certified ride operators tested the ride after the accident and found nothing mechanically or physically wrong with it, however it is said that operator error may have caused the accident. The ride was closed immediately after the accident happened and re-opened the next day, operating normally ever since. [3]


  1. ^ "Michael Fehnel on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  2. ^ a b c "New Roller Coasters & New Attractions! Find What's New | Dorney Park". Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  3. ^ Stanley, Liz (July 24, 1990). "17 Checked At Hospitals In Dorney Coaster Crash". The Morning Call. Retrieved October 6, 2013.

External links